There are plenty of things to do in Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world. Whether you want to encounter a celebrity or surf the famous beaches, the year-round mild weather is accommodating. There are literally dozens of unique neighborhoods in the city, from Chinatown to Little Ethiopia to many more, in which you can explore international cultures and their cuisines. There are also lots of cars on the roads here, so be sure to allow extra time to get to your destinations.
Must see in Los Angeles
Whether or not you're a film buff, a trip to Hollywood (from Hollywood Boulevard to the Sunset Strip) will probably be an unforgettable experience. For something a lot more natural, visit any of the beaches in the Santa Monica Bay, such as world-famous Malibu. To get a feel for L.A.'s history, many downtown landmarks are within walking distance of each other.
Where to stay in Los Angeles
Manhattan Beach is ideal for families with young children. It's close to the airport and South Bay beaches, and about an hour's drive to Disneyland or Universal Studios. The Kettle, a popular restaurant, is open 24 hours in case you're getting used to the time difference and crave dinner at 3 a.m.
Downtown L.A. is the place to stay if you love the nightlife (and day life). From the historic Millennium Biltmore Hotel to the Ritz Carlton that opened in 2010, there are accommodations for every taste and budget. This ever-improving area has plenty of great restaurants and clubs, and it's a short drive to more clubs in Hollywood.
Hotel deals can be found all around L.A. Many hotels in the Hollywood area offer affordable rates all through the year, and they're walking distance from landmarks like Grauman's Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood Wax Museum.
Best and worst time to go to Los Angeles
The best time to visit Los Angeles is in September. Most vacationers have gone home, and the weather is still very warm and sunny. The worst time to go is during peak tourist season in August, or, if you're staying near the beach, in late spring, when low clouds often create "June gloom" that lasts all day.
Where to get lost in Los Angeles
Spend an afternoon at the Santa Monica Pier. Check out the ocean view (and perhaps some famous fellow diners) at The Lobster, or grab a quick lunch and freshly squeezed lemonade at the Hot Dog on a Stick stand. Take a spin on the famous 1922 carousel, then walk over to Pacific Park and ride the solar-powered ferris wheel for a view of the coast from Malibu to Palos Verdes. The Santa Monica Pier Aquarium features more than 100 species of marine life, and has touch tanks filled with sea stars, crabs and other sea creatures.
The best deals in Los Angeles
Griffith Park Observatory is one of the best deals in Los Angeles. Both admission and parking are free for this beloved and very visible landmark, which was built in 1935. Inside the observatory are a planetarium, telescopes and fascinating exhibits. Outside are great views of Los Angeles, hiking trails through Griffith Park, and close proximity to another very beloved, visible landmark: the Hollywood sign.
Transportation in Los Angeles
Because Los Angeles is so spread out, it's a good idea to rent a car. If your visit is confined to the Hollywood or Downtown areas, you can take the Metro rail or bus lines to get around.
Getting in from LAX
The best way to get into town from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is by renting a car, taking a taxi (there's a flat rate of $46.50 for a ride to Downtown L.A.) or using a ride-sharing service like Uber. The Metro Rail green line does not currently extend to LAX, so you'll have to take a shuttle bus or taxi to or from the Douglas Station, about 10 minutes away.
Local tip for visitors to Los Angeles
It's best to stay off the freeways during weekday rush hours (especially from 6 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m.). If you absolutely must take the freeway during those hours, add an extra hour to the time estimated to reach your destination.
Author's bio: Laura Goldman is a writer and native Angeleno. Check out her i Still Love Dogs blog and follow her on Twitter.